NPS Blog

The inner loop of the Net Promoter System: Connecting employees and customers every day

Fred ReichheldOne of the great ironies of modern business practices stems from the way traditional “voice of the customer” programs alienate employees from their customers. These programs generally deliver customer feedback to employees in the form of statistics and reports several weeks, and sometimes several months, after the customer interactions that spurred the feedback. If you have ever been subjected to this process, you know how frustrating it can feel. The scores come to you devoid of context. They are disconnected from any particular customer. Comments, when they are included, come in a list, not attributed to any individual customer you can remember. How are you supposed to use this as a way to get better at your job?

Yet if you’ve read The Ultimate Question 2.0, you know that the Net Promoter System was inspired by the way Enterprise Rent-A-Car used a simplified form of feedback to connect its car rental agents and managers to the customers they serve.

When we first introduced the concept back in 2003, we focused on the scores. At the time, there was no tool in business that offered comparable simplicity and speed when it came to collecting customer feedback. More important, we had never seen anything as powerful for motivating frontline teams to learn and act on customer feedback.

Net Promoter System podcastSince then, we’ve come to appreciate that some of the other things Enterprise was doing were just as responsible as their system’s radical simplicity for making those scores more effective. One of the tactics that most impressed us was a process we now call the inner loop. It’s when companies ask a customer for feedback about their experience, share the input directly with the employees involved and then follow up with those customers to learn more, address any unresolved issues and connect with them in a more personal and human way.

With the benefit of hindsight, this might now seem obvious. Of course we should share feedback from individual customers directly and immediately with employees. Obviously, we should follow up with customers whose feedback merits further exploration or action. Yet today, too many companies still let their employees toil in the dark, giving them feedback so infrequently that it’s impossible to learn and make rapid changes that lead to happy customers and an empowered staff. Employees in these situations often feel helpless and disengaged, and the customers feel they’re not heard. In contrast, employees at a company with a strong inner loop feel a sense of mastery and ownership. They know that they have the power to delight customers and develop their skills. They feel connected.

The key to an effective inner loop is granularity and timeliness. The feedback must be detailed enough that employees can learn from what they did in a particular interaction that they remember. They have to be able to link the outcome to the actions and behaviors that created it. Aggregate data just won’t do. Companies must also relay the feedback while the experience is fresh in the minds of the employee and customer.

I recently talked to my colleague Fred Reichheld, creator of the Net Promoter Score, about the origins of the inner loop and its role in inspiring employees to do a better job for their customers. We also discussed how the inner loop can go beyond call centers and sales groups to support back-office teams and other support organizations—people who have less contact with customers but still impact those relationships.

A new installment of our Loyalty Insights series will take an even closer look at what makes an inner loop effective.

You can listen to my discussion with Fred on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

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